The House: 'Our democracy remains a work in progress' - Macleans.ca

The House: ‘Our democracy remains a work in progress’

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Eight years ago, Stephane Dion delivered a speech on the “state of Canadian democracy” and quibbled variously with certain popular laments and remedies. He concluded with a nod to what he saw as one of the primary problems.

Let us return to the very worrisome example of declining voter turnout, a trend which is affecting democracies whether their regime is presidential or parliamentary, whether their electoral system allows for proportional representation or not. In Canada, this decline has been found to be statistically verifiable only among young people, that is, voters born after 1970, in particular among less-educated youth: “On the contrary, turnout has remained fairly stable among those who were born before 1970.” The same phenomenon seems to be occurring in the United States…

What is it then with our ability – or inability – to connect with and interest young people? We would all like to know the answer, but allow me to venture one hypothesis. Samuel Huntington has written that democracy bears within itself an anti-establishment ethic. The more the values of deference and respect for authority lose their hold on people to the benefit of the democratic values of liberty and equality, the more people tend to mistrust those who govern them. I believe it is primarily this values dynamic that is at the source of the “democratic malaise.”